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On-Chip Micro Gas Chromatograph Enabled by a Noncovalently Functionalized Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube Sensor Array.

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DOI: 10.1002/ange.200704501
Nanotube GC Sensor
On-Chip Micro Gas Chromatograph Enabled by a Noncovalently
Functionalized Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube Sensor Array**
Chang Young Lee, Richa Sharma, Adarsh D. Radadia, Richard I. Masel, and Michael S. Strano*
Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) are quasi-1D
electronic materials consisting only of surface atoms whose
electrical properties can be directly modulated by molecular
adsorption.[1] This environmental sensitivity has been utilized
to engineer sensor arrays with electrical responses to partsper-billion (ppb) doses of organic vapors.[2–6] Polymers,[2, 7–9]
metal nanoparticles,[10, 11] and DNA[12] have been reported as
functional materials for enhancing the selectivity of such
systems. A central problem with the majority of these sensor
arrays, including a recent SWNT chemi-capacitor arrangement,[4] is that molecular adsorption is irreversible upon
exposure to a wide range of analytes. To be clear, we define
reversible adsorption not as the ability to be externally or
manually regenerated, but rather the spontaneous desorption
of analyte when the chemical potential gradient has been
removed. By this criterion, strong electron donors or acceptors appear to adsorb onto bare single-nanotube or network
devices irreversibly at room temperature for the vast majority
of systems examined in the literature.[2–5, 8, 9, 11, 13–15] In later
publications, some of these same systems demonstrate
reversible sensor responses from the same analytes,[12, 16–18]
thus underscoring a poor understanding of what determines
molecular reversibility. No examination of the disparity has
been reported to date.
Previously, we demonstrated that irreversible electrical
responses upon SOCl2 exposure (a model electron acceptor)
were indeed attributed to irreversible analyte adsorption.[13]
We have recently elucidated design rules and have identified
noncovalent chemistries that transition this irreversible binding into reversible responses that appear tunable.[19] Herein,
we show that the ability to engineer molecular reversibility of
adsorption enables the development of new types of nanoelectronic devices for analyte detection using microelectromechanical system (MEMS)-based micro gas chromatography (mGC). The specific combination of the SWNT sensor
and mGC column is not possible with previously described
systems, many of which show an irreversible response. We
demonstrate the unprecedented reversible detection of as few
as 109 molecules of dimethyl methylphosphonate (DMMP), a
nerve agent simulant, at the end of a mGC column.
An interdigitated electrode design was chosen to maximize the nanotube surface area for analyte adsorption, as
predicted from our model.[13, 20] A SWNT network was formed
across the electrodes through ac dielectrophoresis (Figure 1 a). Polypyrrole (PPy), an amine of pKb 5.4,[21] was
selected as a functionalization material for DMMP binding.[22]
A slight decrease in conductance (G) was observed upon
[*] C. Y. Lee, R. Sharma, Prof. M. S. Strano
Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of
Cambridge, MA 02139 (USA)
Fax: (+ 1) 617-258-8224
A. D. Radadia, Prof. R. I. Masel
Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Urbana, IL 61801 (USA)
[**] This work was supported by the Department of Homeland Security
and the Federal Aviation Administration under grant DHS S&T 06G-026. R. Masel acknowledges funding from Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under U.S. Air Force grant
FA8650-04-1-7121. SEM was carried out in the Center for Microanalysis of Materials, University of Illinois, which is partially
supported by the U.S. Department of Energy under grantDEFG0291-ER45439.
Supporting information for this article is available on the WWW
under or from the author.
Figure 1. SWNT sensor fabrication and testing. a) Scanning electron
microscopy (SEM) image of a dielectrophoretically deposited SWNT
network. b) Reversible conductance response from a PPy-functionalized SWNT sensor upon exposure to 1-mL DMMP pulses. c) DMMP
response curve.
2008 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
Angew. Chem. 2008, 120, 5096 –5099
functionalization. The sensor response in an open-air environment was tested first. Control experiments with only PPy
on the electrode gap showed no response to DMMP.
Figure 1 b shows a typical change in sensor conductance
upon exposure to 1-mL pulses of DMMP vapor. The
responses fall within the ppb range and are completely
reversible, with full width at half maximum (FWHM) of only
about 4 s. The decrease in conductance is attributed to
electron-donating DMMP molecules adsorbed on p-type
semiconducting SWNTs.[5] A response curve for 1-mL analyte
pulses is generated from four sensors (Figure 1 c). The
response from unfunctionalized sensors is reversible, but the
sensitivity is enhanced by three orders of magnitude after PPy
functionalization with the reversibility retained.
Using our model,[20] we were able to extract kinetic and
thermodynamic parameters, such as the adsorption rate
constant (k), desorption rate constant (k1), equilibrium
constant (K = k/k1), and therefore the Gibbs free energy of
adsorption (DGad). The desorption part of the sensor signal
(S = DG/G0, where G0 is the initial conductance) is first fitted
to Equation (1) to obtain k1 = 0.525 s1. S0 represents the
signal when the analyte is removed. The maximum signal
(Smax 0.176) upon saturation is estimated by exposing the
sensor to a high concentration of DMMP vapor. Fitting the
adsorption part to Equation (2), at an analyte concentration
Ca, gives k = 3.66 A 105 ppb1 s1 and K = 6.98 A 105 ppb1.
DGad = 0.286 eV is then extracted from Equation (3), where
R and T denote the gas constant and temperature, respectively. DGad determines how favorable the adsorption is at
SðtÞ ¼ S0 exp½k1 t
SðtÞ ¼ Smax
Ca K
1 þ Ca K
1exp 1 þ Ca K
DGad ¼ RT lnK
A parameter directly related to the DMMP desorption
rate, and therefore the sensor reversibility, is k1. The value of
0.525 s1, improved by three orders of magnitude compared to
k1 = 3.67 A 104 s1 from a previously reported partially
irreversible system,[5, 20] quantifies the comparatively rapid
signal recovery from the sensor.
Tuning the array to exact a rapid, reversible response with
high sensitivity enables new applications for real-time,
dynamic detection by these systems. As mentioned previously, one example is a reversible SWNT array coupled to the
outlet of a mGC column. Chromatographic separation and
detection remains the analytical standard for the detection of
diverse classes of organic molecules. Testing cross-sensitivity
is therefore unnecessary with this design. Our approach
eliminates the need to engineer selective binding sites for
small-molecule analytes for SWNTs, a difficult problem only
solved in specialized cases for H2, H2S, and CH4 by using
metal nanoparticles[10, 11] and for CO2 using a starch/polyethyleneimine mixture.[7] Target specificity is achieved through a
mGC column in which the analytes are screened by their
retention time. Another advantage of such a microfluidic
Angew. Chem. 2008, 120, 5096 –5099
arrangement lies in the exceedingly small footprint (800 A
800 mm2) for molecular discrimination by column chromatography and detection with a rapidly transducing electronic
array. We demonstrate that the SWNT network, when
chemically treated as described above, has a response that is
rapid and sensitive enough to reversibly detect DMMP in real
time from the end of a mGC column.
Figure 2 a outlines the fabrication and assembly of the
mGC column. An SEM image of the column cross section is
shown in Figure 2 b. The mGC column is connected to the
injection port of a conventional benchtop gas chromatograph
Figure 2. a) Fabrication of a mGC column. OV-5 = 5 % diphenyl/95 %
dimethylpolysiloxane. b) SEM image of a mGC column with a
100 E 100 mm2 channel cross section (scale bar = 200 mm). c) A mGC
column connected to the injection port. The injected analyte molecules
flow through the mGC column and to the SWNT sensor (scale
bar = 5 mm). d) A SWNT sensor at the end of a mGC column. Analyte
flows through an aligned capillary column to the SWNT sensor.
to ensure precision in measurement of the detection limit
(Figure 2 c). The outlet is then carefully aligned above a PPytreated SWNT sensor (Figure 2 d). With H2 carrier gas
flowing at 40 psi, a DMMP headspace (2 mL) was manually
injected (< 0.3 s) at a 7:1 split and the conductance was
monitored. The injector and column temperature were 250
and 30 8C, respectively.
The sensor response (Figure 3 a) is negative and reversible
with FWHM 26 s. The 150-ppb pulse corresponds to
approximately 109 DMMP molecules, a number that was
confirmed by the downstream flame ionization detector
(FID). The ability of our experimental approach and detection limits to be independently verified by GC-FID is unique,
2008 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
ppb level, which differentiates this system from existing
irreversible examples in the literature. We show, for the first
time, that such reversible sensors can be part of an integrated,
microfluidic, and portable detector system. We have reversibly detected a pulse as small as 109 DMMP molecules at the
end of a mGC column. Future work will examine the dynamic
peak resolution of gas mixtures with this platform.
Experimental Section
An individual suspension of HiPco[23] SWNTs (Rice University,
Run 107.1; HiPco = high-pressure CO conversion) in an aqueous
solution of sodium dodecyl sulfate (1 wt. %) was deposited onto 5mm-gap interdigitated gold electrodes by ac dielectrophoresis. PPy
aqueous solution (5 wt. %, Aldrich) was then dropped onto the
SWNT array and rinsed after 2 min. Changes in the sensor conductance upon exposure to DMMP vapor were monitored at 0.1 V
(E5272A, Agilent) either in the open air without GC or in
combination with GC (6890N, Agilent).
A mGC column was fabricated by the following steps. A 35-cmlong channel with 100 A 100 mm2 cross sections was fabricated by deep
reactive-ion etching (DRIE) of a silicon wafer. A pyrex coverslip was
anodically bonded to seal the channel. A fused-silica column (internal
diameter = 100 mm) was used to connect the mGC column from the
injection port to the SWNT sensor. The column was then coated with
about 100 nm OV-5 by dynamic coating (Figure 2 a).[24]
Figure 3. Integration of a reversible SWNT sensor with a mGC column.
a) DMMP pulses through the mGC column detected by a PPy-functionalized sensor. A 150-ppb pulse corresponds to 109 DMMP molecules.
b) Response of a PPy-functionalized sensor to a DMMP pulse through
a conventional fused-silica column. The peak is much sharper
(FWHM 3 s) than that from the mGC column (FWHM 26 s). This is
because of peak broadening in the mGC column, as confirmed by the
FID signal (inset).
and provides a high level of confidence in the reported
absolute and relative detection limits. We note that the direct
electrical transduction of 109 molecules in this manner has not
been demonstrated before with any analytical platform.
Figure 3 b shows a response of the SWNT array to 10 mL of
1.5 ppm DMMP at a 7:1 split at 15 psi using a 3-m-long
commercial fused-silica column. The FWHM is as short as 3 s.
The extracted k1 = 0.325 s1 is larger by an order of
magnitude than 3.25 A 102 s1 from the mGC column
response. This result suggests that the broad peaks in
Figure 3 a arise from peak broadening in the mGC column,
which is attributed to the imperfections in microfabrication,
microfluidic connections to and from the microchannel chip,
and column wall surface activity. This suggestion is confirmed
by a much broader FID signal from a mGC column than from
a conventional fused-silica column (40 psi, 7:1 split, 2 mL
injection; Figure 3 b, inset). A slight baseline drift is caused by
analyte adsorption on strong binding sites, such as interstitial
channels and grooves.[19]
In summary, we have utilized PPy functionalization on a
dielectrophoretically formed SWNT network for the detection of DMMP, a nerve agent simulant. Our sensor is highly
sensitive and completely reversible (self-regenerating) at the
Received: September 30, 2007
Revised: March 13, 2008
Published online: June 2, 2008
Keywords: adsorption · gas chromatography · nanotubes ·
polymers · sensors
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